June 28, 2019

I told earlier today David that reading the news, following the primary race, and generally staying “on top” of current events feels like sticking your head into a pool, searching for something on the bottom. It’s blurry, disorienting, and you come up gasping for breath. In that vein, let’s consider this quote. It’s from a group of people who intentionally disengaged from technology to find their priorities, and came back to say, “I think we also found the answer to the universe, which was, quite simply: just spend more time with your friends.” Cling to those you love and keep doing your best.

  1. A Feminist Defense of Bridezillas, NYT. “In her 2007 book “One Perfect Day,” Rebecca Mead argues that the bridezilla taboo is just one component of a profitable industry: Get women as stressed out as possible and they’ll spend any amount of money to get what they want. Even modern couples who shun tradition or would rather save for a down payment on a house must choreograph their alternative ceremonies. Potluck meals have to be assigned, volunteer photographers have to be coordinated, and the “you” in D.I.Y. isn’t just any old “you.” It’s — you guessed it — the bride.” I am behind this op-ed. Good pep talk if being labelled a bridezilla, bossy, or bitchy is making you hesitate to go for what you want.
  2. Claire Saffitz, Host, Gourmet Makes (Interview), Into the Gloss. “The best possible outcome is when the homemade version tastes the way you thought the original tasted when you were a kid. That’s like peak nostalgia. It’s definitely given me a small window into the American snack food industry. More often than not the first ingredients are sugar and corn syrup.” Interview with my cooking celebrity crush Claire Saffitz of Gourmet Makes and other Bon Appetit work! It’s an interview on the Glossier blog so it does hit her skincare/beauty routine (which has become a topic where my eyes glaze over, but you might find it interesting!). And I learned she’s coming out with a baking cookbook in 2020 and that is something I’m excited about!
  3. The research is clear: electing more women changes how government works, Vox. In my opinion, the headline should say it changes how government works for the better. “A woman legislator, on average, passed twice as many bills as a male legislator in one recent session of Congress.” Female legislators also bring more funds back to their districts than male legislators, on average. The article quotes people who theorize that it’s partly because for these women to have made it to high office, they had to be ambitious and very likely overqualified for their positions, to make it past so many obstacles in the advancement of women’s careers. The future is female, what is UP!
  4. The Mindfulness Conspiracy, The Guardian. I don’t endorse this long-winded piece! It takes a valid critique of mindfulness and shoves it into rant territory and I can’t resist picking at it. “Mindfulness advocates, perhaps unwittingly, are providing support for the status quo. Rather than discussing how attention is monetised and manipulated by corporations such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Apple, they locate the crisis in our minds. It is not the nature of the capitalist system that is inherently problematic; rather, it is the failure of individuals to be mindful and resilient in a precarious and uncertain economy. Then they sell us solutions that make us contented, mindful capitalists.”
    1. First of all, research-based mindfulness advocates are not unwitting about the passivity that mindfulness can cultivate in a person. That is absolutely a focus of the literature and one of several cautions given to practitioners.
    2. Furthermore, I would argue that disengaging our attention from those manipulative corporations is an individual act of resistance. I get what he’s (of course it’s a he) trying to say, but I don’t buy it. Sure, like Dove-soap body positivity and self-care in a bottle, mindfulness stripped from its ethics could be used as a productivity aid and nothing more. But concluding that all practitioners of mindfulness are intentionally teaching employees to serenely endure workplace abuse is disingenuous.
    3. I object to his assertion here: “With the retreat to the private sphere, mindfulness becomes a religion of the self. The idea of a public sphere is being eroded, and any trickledown effect of compassion is by chance.” The research shows otherwise; there are mindfulness techniques specifically designed to cultivate compassion. The person who taught me to meditate says that the purpose of the practice is not to calm down but to wake up: to sensation, to your needs and those of others, and to what needs to be done when you leave the mat. And if reducing suffering and dismantling capitalism are part of your ethos, then you will move on to that task, perhaps avoiding burnout in the process.
    4. This author reminds me of those who are almost anti-recovery, who say “Oh exercise creates endorphins? Asking your friends for support helps your depression? Sounds fake but ok, must be nice to not have real problems,” and that is obstinately miserable. I get that he’s trying to critique the fad of mindfulness, especially applied in a corporate or consumer context, but I think he takes it too far. And wouldn’t you know it, this guy wrote this longread (emphasis on long) in advance of his new book, McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality. Pass.
  5. 14 People on How They *Actually* Made New Friends as an Adult, Man Repeller. “My fiancé really struggles to make new guy friends as he feels lame getting in touch with someone on a weekly basis. I keep reminding him to check in with people so they know he’s thinking about them and actually listened to details in the last conversation they had.” Checking in with your friends regularly is such a good thing to do! It feels like 101 stuff but man, when Kaitlyn asks me how my car’s AC is faring (answer: it isn’t) or Emily remembers I had a doctor’s appointment last week and how did that go, I feel seen and loved. If like me you are the center of your own universe and thoughtfulness isn’t effortless, I’ll share my strategy: make a little note on my planner for things like my friends’ parents’ names, reminders to ask how their interview went, etc. I learn from my considerate and friends and I say thank you a lot! There are a lot of good methods and pieces of young-woman-friendship wisdom in this post. For example, this is a cool way of thinking about when an acquaintance turns into a friend: “You’re not really friends with someone until you spend time with them on three occasions outside of the context in which you met them. I have taken this to heart and tried to organize catch-ups at different times of day/environments.”

Bonus features:

June 21, 2019

My dad loves the beach. Whenever I go, I take a short video of the waves coming in and out and text it to him. He always writes back, “Love that sound.” When I was still in floaties, all I wanted was to be beyond the foam, where the waves calm down and you can’t hear sounds on the shore. For most of the 1990s this meant my dad would carry me out. I very clearly remember his wet hair and his squint (because he always took his glasses off to swim), and I remember his “whoo!” when a wave buffeted us, him laughing to reassure me or for the raw joy of the cold water. I remember feeling so sturdy with his arm holding me up that I thought his feet must be planted on the ground somewhere under the water. A good dad can take you where you’re scared to go alone, and help you experience something as big as the Atlantic with simultaneous exhilaration and perfect safety.

My dad’s got a great laugh and a sometimes-restless sense of adventure. He has a soft heart that has miraculously not hardened over the years. When I conjure an image of him in my mind, I smell coffee. I love my philosopher, mathematician, teacher, helper father. Happy (late) Father’s Day! Here’s what I read this week:

  1. Do People Finish Their Goodreads Challenges? The Atlantic. I do reading challenges every year…why? I love to keep track of what I’ve read for a few reasons. One, it prevents me from accidentally getting 10 pages into a book with the vague sense of “hey, have I read this before?” Two, I can keep much better track of which books go in what order in long series. Three, the social aspect is pretty nice — unlike most other social media networks, Goodreads is pretty much a feed of what your friends and follows are reading, not all kinds of info about their lives. It’s just one piece of data, so it feels easier to parse and less like you have to represent yourself as perfect in any way. I used to be shy of putting “embarrassing” or “guilty pleasure” reads on my list, but then I figured that if I’m enjoying it, so why be ashamed. It’s brought me more genuine joy in reading, and that’s a big reason why I complete or exceed my reading challenges every year.
  2. Monster Self-Care, Black Cardigan Edit. This archived edition of Frye’s newsletter takes a look at a Hayao Miyazaki movie but I really liked how she relates it back to a familiar experience. “…That feeling you get when you’re feeling strange and restless, maybe a little blue or maybe anxious, and instead of doing some work or taking a walk or doing anything you find truly enjoyable, you start clicking and clicking and clicking around the internet, hoping it’ll release the magic sugar pellet that will make you feel satisfied and content.” Well hello I recognize that feeling and behavior very well! And later this gem about self-care to overcome that feeling: “Step one: change of scene. Step two: letting yourself be quiet, not trying to cover uncertainty and unhappiness by rushing at people with handfuls of fake gold. Step three: doing whatever your version is of a little knitting and spinning. Step four: staying open to the comforts of friends and tea and connection.”
  3. How to Spot a Fake Viral Story, The Cut. “The benefit to stories like these popping up so frequently is that they become easier to spot. Once you know the formula, it’s hard to read past a tweet or two before checking out, knowing full well what you’re reading is just fiction. And not particularly nuanced fiction at that.” I learned how to spot fake viral stories from my days on Tumblr, because a lot of those stories end with something like “And everybody else on the bus clapped!” Just another list of strategies to smell something fishy on the Internet. Sniff sniff.
  4. 15 Rare Photos of Black Rosie the Riveters, Stuff Mom Never Told You. The quoted history is a little random and hard to read, but this is a great round up of photographs of Black Rosie the Riveters! I love their intent expressions and the flash of red nail polish on hands of the woman in the last photograph.
  5. D-Day Veteran Reunites with French Love after 75 Years, Today. Oh this is such a sweet video. It says at the bottom of the story that they’re planning to meet again soon. I was moved! I love love.

June 14, 2019


101 Dalmatians behind the scenes: models for Roger, Anita, puppies (more here!)

You made it to Friday! As a reward I have pretty short and light fare, because I’m feeling pretty short and light this week. Hope you are entering the weekend with your face toward the sun.

  1. An Ode To Winston Bishop, The Lovable Weirdo Of “New Girl”, Buzzfeed. “For all of his quirks, Winston was a traditional romantic, and he pursued love with the twin attitudes of being game while wildly unsure of himself; his many callbacks to how that had worked out in the past (in the fifth season he revealed he’d been dumped 47 times, once while he’d been in Santa’s lap) helped build a fuller picture of who he was as a man.” This reminded me how good a character Winston is on New Girl!
  2. How to Draw a Horse, The New Yorker. This is a funny and beautiful short illustrated love story. I love the last three panels, so bittersweet. There’s no way to quote from this! Just read it, and go on the journey with me.
  3. Never forget that the first-ever Pride was a riot against police brutality, The Tempest. 2019 is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, and this short article gives us a brief history of that event, which sparked the gay rights movement in the United States. This article touches on past triumphs but highlights the need for more protections almost everywhere in America (housing, health, physical and legal safety). For example, “transgender people of color face the highest rates of violent [hate] crime,” which is unacceptable. This piece reminds me that the reason to celebrate Pride is because this community has to have incredible resilience, solidarity, and courage in a dangerous world. To gather together in waves of color and yes, glitter, is a fierce demonstration of survival and joy. Love it.
  4. What Romance Really Means After 10 Years of Marriage, The Cut. Loving the tone of this piece by the good ole Heather Havrilesky. She gets frank in this essay in ways that make me a little uncomfortable, but she grabs it all back together at the end in an oddball, excellent wedding toast. “Our dumb culture tricks us into believing that romance is the suspense of not knowing whether someone loves you or not yet, the suspense of wanting to have sex but not being able to yet, the suspense of wanting all problems and puzzles to be solved by one person, without knowing if they have any time or affinity for your particular puzzles yet. We think romance is a mystery in which you add up clues that you will be loved. Romance must be carefully staged and art-directed, so everyone looks better than they usually do and seems sexier and better than they actually are, so the suspense can remain intact. You are not better than you are, though, and neither is your partner. That’s romance. Laughing at how beaten-down you sometimes are, in your tireless quest to survive, is romance. It’s sexy to feel less than totally sexy and still feel like you’re sexy to one person, no matter what.”
  5. Which Movie Chef Makes the Best Food?, Grub Street. I really enjoyed Always Be My Maybe, and I got a lot of ideas of other chef/cooking films to watch from this list! Also, I’m hungry.

Bonus features:

June 7, 2019

Last Saturday, I picked strawberries and my mom taught me how to make jam! We stood side by side cutting berries, and she guided me through the whole process. For something that seems like an ancient art, canning strawberry jam involves a lot of precision; jars and sink need to be spotless, sugar needs to be measured exactly, and at the critical moment you can only boil the jam for one exact minute.

I am lucky to have parents who are kind, patient teachers. My mom has taught me to do so many things: how to curl my eyelashes, how to shave, how to drive stick (to her eternal amusement). She taught me how to read a pattern, how to cut expensive fabric, how to use an upholstery needle. Her example taught me how to weather pain, how to navigate loss. She is a great teacher because she won’t grab the whisk from your hand, she won’t take over, and she won’t lose faith in you. She helps you laugh when you stall out so suddenly that your elbow beeps the horn. When the hot oil snaps or my bike wheels wobble, her voice has calmly gotten me through things I never thought I could do.

Looking over my rows of sealed jars, shining like gems, was incredibly satisfying. Those strawberries started on a sun-warmed hillside and in one day I made them into something that I am proud of. My PB&Js have never tasted better than this week. I’m grateful to have learned this craft that runs back generations in my family and has at one time or another brought so many friends through my mom’s kitchen. And I’m just plain grateful for my mom.

  1. Meet Emma Boettcher, the University of Chicago librarian who just beat James Holzhauer on ‘Jeopardy!’ Chicago Tribune. A librarian beat the long-running champion on Jeopardy! this week, so of course we were all talking about it at work. She’s my age, and I feel very young when I read about her. Once I read a “What it’s really like to be on Jeopardy! article,” and did you know they record a bunch of those games one right after another? That’s why Emma said, “I had to keep my nerves, keep my energy very level so that I could sustain what I was doing” for the next game.” Wild! Also she is using some of her winnings to pay off her student loans which, though it is what I would do, kind of bums me out.
  2. What is a Beach Read, and Why? Vulture. “A beach read is a vacation in a book. It’s fully immersive. It’s escapist … It makes you feel all those primal emotions: lust, love, hate, greed, fear, redemption. To achieve this effect, at a minimum, a book should have charismatic characters, a propulsive plot, and a memorable setting.” I also think a good book for the actual beach is a mass market paperback that can get a little wet or a little sandy. For me this summer, that’s gonna be romance novels I think! This is another choice quote: “The best thing might be simply to drop the idea of a genre hierarchy, while admitting that summer is a welcome opportunity to lower your shades. “It’s so puritanical, this idea that anything fun, indulgent, and pleasurable must be suspect, that the only worthy things are hard or difficult,” says Necessary People author Anna Pitoniak.”
  3. Olivia Wilde, Director: ‘Too Old to Play Dumb Anymore’, NYT. “Her new movie, “Booksmart,” would be special enough to her because it is her directorial debut, but Wilde said it held further value. “It is remarkable that I am 35 years old and this is the first job I’ve ever had that wasn’t entirely dependent on and connected to my looks,” she said. “It grosses me out to acknowledge it, but I’ve been thinking a lot about it.” So Booksmart is a raunchy teen movie in some ways, but it is also very relatable, hilarious, nostalgic, and atmospheric. For me it immediately joins the ranks of Clueless and Dazed and Confused as a classic high school comedy. I highly recommend it! I’m pretty excited to see what else comes from Olivia Wilde. This quote is evidence enough of why I love thoughtful women directors: “When it came time to film an intimate love scene between Dever and another actor, Wilde said: “I was so excited to explain to everyone what I thought a closed set should mean. There aren’t 100 people in the room. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done a love scene where I’ve been like, ‘But surely that guy doesn’t need to be there?’”
  4. How to Be a Library Archive Tourist. I think this is a great idea for the curious and the library-lover: do a little pre-research and make an appointment for one of the special collections or archives in the city you’re visiting. I’m going to Denver in July and I think this might be something on my list!
  5. On a Sunbeam, Tillie Walden. This graphic novel, which takes place in the far future, jumps between a high school romance in a space boarding school and a space construction crew, has me hooked. It’s a big volume but it moves quickly, because I’m dying to know the secrets of this advanced but familiar world. Also the back of the book had two phrases that always get me: “slow-burn romance” and “found family.”  I’ve been devouring books this week, mostly graphic novels. Here are two more that I’m liking: I Moved to Los Angeles to Work in Animation by Natalie Nourigat, and Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by the transcendent Mariko Tamaki.

Bonus features: